ITS History

Taoist Practice is a way of life emphasising the need to live in harmony with the natural world. Tao means way or principle and refers to the force behind everything that exists. The origins of the philosophy were first captured in three texts, the I Ching, Dao De Jing, and Zhuangzi, written many centuries before the common era. These describe not only a way of living but also of organising a civil society. Our objective as the human race is to live in synergy with the natural energies of the universe.

The International Taoist Society, with its sister organisation Lishi International, are registered UK charities dedicated to preserving the Lee Family tradition of Taoist Arts. These Arts include Tai Chi, Chi Gong, Kung Fu and are collectively known as Daojia Lishi Quanfa.

This Taoist system was passed down the Lee family from Master to Student over many generations before it was brought to the United Kingdom in 1934 by Chan Kam Li. Chan Kam Li had no successor, but while living in London he encountered a young boy playing football in Hyde Park who was half Chinese. The boy was known as Clifford Gibbs as he was using his mother’s name. Clifford was orphaned as a child and raised in a Barnados Home. Chan Kam Lee accepted the young Clifford as a student and the boy was initiated into the family system. Chan Kam Lee eventually adopted Clifford as his son.

In 1937, with the possibility of war increasingly apparent, Clifford joined the British Army as a solder in the Royal Tank Regiment. During the war he served in France, North Africa, and Burma as a tank commander. He was awarded the Military Medal in 1941 and taken prisoner by the Japanese in 1942. He escaped the prison camp to survive in the jungle until he was located and repatriated. He was finally demobilised in 1947 and went on to establish a martial arts school in London.

Chan Kam Lee was lost at sea during a storm off the coast of China, near Canton. With Clifford being the only successor, he changed his name to his father’s and used the name Chee Soo until his death in 1994.

Chee Soo personified and upheld the Taoist arts throughout his life. His many books and exploits are a matter of public record. One of his duties as the custodian of the Arts was to nominate a successor and as such, he chose an Irishman born and bread in England, Desmond Murray. Desmond, whom we refer to as Laoba (a phrase meaning Old Father) is the current grandmaster.

As such, the richness and vitality of the Lee family Taoist arts have been cultivated, unchanged and protected, for nearly 100 years. This has ensured their ongoing continuity and integrity through volatile times. In China, the fact that this alchemic family tradition has been guarded and protected for so long is known as the mystery of mysteries. This explains the respect with which Chee Soo and Desmond Murray are held within the Chinese Taoist establishment.

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We are raising funds to buy a building that will be the global headquarters of the International Taoist Society. It is where we will run our training programmes, organise annual conferences and host Taoists from around the world.